Thank you William Morrow for sending me an early copy of this book. The following opinions are my own.
Survivor Song is unlike any other book I’ve ever read. Here are a couple of things that this story is not:
This is not a zombie novel.
This is not an apocalypse novel.
This book follows Dr. Ramola Sherman and her best friend, Natalie, after an outbreak of a super rabies illness. This illness is unlike the rabies we know and love where the symptoms can take several weeks to appear and we have all kinds of time to treat it before it becomes fatal. The super rabies has an incubation time of an hour or even less in some cases. Once it passes the brain barrier there is no hope of return.
Natalie calls Ramola when her husband is viciously attacked and killed by an infected neighbor and shares the news that she, too, has been bitten. Natalie is due to give birth in 15 days. As Natalie pulls into the driveway of Ramola’s home the clock starts ticking. The two women head out determined to get Natalie treated before the illness can do permanent damage and kill her friend and possibly her child.
This entire book, with the exception of the ‘postlude’ at the end, spans several hours as Ramola desperately tries to get Natalie to a hospital and a vaccine before it’s too late. On this journey through a chaotic Massachusetts that’s been set upon by the outbreak, everything that can happen does. It becomes a survival of the fittest type of situation and Ramola is willing to do just about anything to save her best friend. The chapters alternate between Ramola’s and Natalie’s point of view and the reader starts waiting with bated breathe to see if Natalie will mentally deteriorate like those all around her or if she was vaccinated in time to save her. One thing is for sure, though. They must deliver the baby by emergency c-section to save the child’s life in the event Natalie does not survive. Ramola doesn’t spare a single thought for anything else other than Natalie and her unborn child.
The story was gripping the whole way through. At every turn the two women face another challenge and you never know what they will do to meet it. They find themselves face to face with infected people and animals, conspiracy-believing zealots, car crashes, and two teenage boys who become more entangled in the story than expected. It’s a wild ride from beginning to end. This book goes a bit deeper than that, though. What I saw when reading this was the love and loyalty these women shared and what they were willing to do to help each other. I saw a doctor who is extraordinarily compassionate and held on to her morals with an iron fist no matter what. So while this is a horror novel about rabies-infected humans going around chewing on each other, it’s also a story about resilience and hope and I couldn’t put it down.
Some other aspects of the book I really liked were the creepy pages with the gothic writing peppered throughout and I also loved that the main character, Ramola, is a half white, half Indian, asexual woman with a British accent. Her character represented these qualities, not to further the plot, but just because that’s who she was. She has a really interesting background story that features her parents who are in an interracial relationship. I’d love to see more of this representation in books just for the sake of being there and not because it’s the focus of the story.
There are only a couple small criticisms I have as far as this book goes. One being that the chapters, especially Rams (Ramola), are very long. This doesn’t hurt the story and luckily this is a very fast-paced read so those long chapters don’t drag like they sometimes do in other books. I just prefer shorter chapters. And the second being that I don’t understand what the purpose was behind the decisions the teenage boys, specifically Luis, made after leaving Romola and Natalie. I thought that was an odd addition to the story and it felt like it didn’t fit. I think I would have enjoyed that part more if specifics from their background had been revealed and we could have learned what their secret was in more detail.
Do I recommend this book? Absolutely. I enjoyed this infinitely more than The Cabin at the End of the World. If you weren’t a fan of that book but want to give Paul Tremblay another shot or if you haven’t read anything by him and want to then I’d definitely pick this one up when it releases in July. I love Paul’s writing. It’s really fantastic, and I felt that way when reading the previous book as well. But here the storytelling and writing are in sync to create an awesome book.
Beware of some triggers for: blood/gore, violence, loss of a spouse/loved one, animal deaths, and xenophobia.